My husband and I went out for dinner the other night. We sat at a table for two overlooking the kitchen at one of our favorite restaurants. I sipped on a Cosmo and looked around, spying on the other diners. A few tables over, there was a young couple with a baby. The woman was giving the kid a bottle as her food sat off to the side. I swirled my martini around the glass, watching, wondering if she wished she was at a table for two sipping a cocktail and eating while the food was still hot. I asked my husband, “Is the grass really greener on the parenting side of fence?”
It occurred to me that as jealous as I am of couples with babies, maybe, just maybe there are a few out there who are a teensy bit jealous of us. Maybe that couple was looking at us thinking, “I remember when we used to go out to dinner and drink martinis and didn’t have to worry about where we were going to put the stroller, or if the baby would cry through the whole meal.”
Or maybe that mom who was standing next to me as I was buying my Size 0 pants the other day was thinking, “I remember when my butt used to fit into smaller clothes.”
Or maybe our friends who get up in the night to change diapers or feed a crying infant think about us sleeping in until 9:00 on the weekends and say, “I’d give anything to sleep past 4:00 in the morning.”
My girlfriend, a working mom of two, reminds me all the time that though the joys of parenting are great, there’s something to be said about being a youngish couple without children. I love it when she says things like “See what you have to look forward to,” as she tries to wrestle her toddler into a highchair.
The other day we were out at a coffee shop with her two and half year old. We were talking about ovulation predictor kits when she stopped mid-sentence, looked at her son and said, “Are you pooping?” We put our conversation on hold as she checked his diaper and carted him off to the bathroom. I stayed at the table, kept my eye on the plastic dinosaurs and the Buzz Lightyear doll, and started thinking, maybe life without children isn’t so bad.
I mean, we do have a pretty sweet life. I took a two hour nap a few days ago and when I got up, I poured myself a glass of wine. I sat on my couch and read Cooking Light and listened to the sound of silence. Not once did I think, “I really wish there was a baby crying for me to feed it this very second.” I also didn’t think, “It sure would be nice to change a diaper right now.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not changing my tune. I still want to start a family, and seeing pregnant women still makes my heart hurt. But I’ve decided, a baby isn’t going to make my life perfect and it’s probably not going to make me happy, especially in the short term. I don’t know how many people smile through a diaper blow out, a 2:00 AM feeding, or a colicky wail.
The whole subject of whether being a parent makes a person happy is hotly contested these days. A recent, controversial article in New York magazine cites numerous studies that show, statistically speaking, parents are less happy than non-parents. If I was a parent, this article would irritate the heck out of me. But as a non-parent, as a woman who has recently been through the trauma of a miscarriage, and as someone now on the verge of diagnosed anovulation, the article gives me strength to get out of bed, put on my size 0 pants, drink a Bourbon and gingerale at a table for two, and do it all with a smile on my face.